Palestine, May 27, (Pal Telegraph) - All of Amer Aliyan's hopes of rebuilding his life are placed in a carefully folded sheet in his wallet, a document that for the foreseeable future in Gaza is nothing but a worthless piece of paper.
"I'm waiting for the reconstruction, but I know it will take time," the 36-year-old says.
This is a gross understatement in the besieged and impoverished Gaza Strip where an Israeli blockade is preventing the rebuilding effort after the devastation caused by a brief but deadly war at the turn of the year.
Aliyan's house was one of several thousand destroyed during the massive 22-day onslaught unleashed by Israel on the Islamist Hamas-run Gaza in December in response to militant rocket and mortar fire from the enclave.
Since the end of the war, the unemployed dry cleaner has lived under canvas with his wife and five children in one of 93 tents set up on the outskirts of the Beit Lahiya refugee camp in northern Gaza.
The paper secreted inside his wallet is the official attestation that his home was destroyed, and it is a document that will entitle him to funds for rebuilding once the reconstruction starts.
But that is unlikely to begin any time soon, and until it does the thousands of Gazans who like Aliyan lost their homes in the war will just have to fend for themselves.
Reconstruction is a non-event not because there is a lack of demand. Some 4,100 houses was destroyed during the war, as were 48 government buildings, 31 police stations and 20 mosques, among others.
Nor is it for lack of money -- in coffers worldwide sit a whopping 4.5 billion dollars that donors pledged to the Palestinians in March, most of it towards reconstruction in Gaza.
The rebuilding is not able to get under way because of the blockade Israel imposed on Gaza in June 2007 when Hamas, a group pledged to the destruction of the Jewish state, seized the enclave in a deadly takeover.
The billions of dollars in pledges remain where they are because the international community refuses to release the money directly to Hamas, branded as a terror organisation by Israel and much of the West.
The blockade, under which only essential humanitarian goods are allowed into the territory sandwiched between Israel and Egypt, means building materials stay on the outside, as Israel says they can also be used to make rockets.
In a bid to get around these restrictions, Gazans have dug dozens of tunnels under the border with Egypt that are used to bring in supplies, including construction materials such as cement, paint and wood.
The resulting trade is brisk, but limited and dangerous. The hastily dug tunnels often collapse, burying smugglers alive. The Israeli military still targets them in occasional bombing raids.
Because of the blockade the price of building materials has skyrocketed. A bag of cement now costs 220 shekels (56 dollars, 40 euros) compared with 20 shekels previously.
But the cement is of low quality, according to Hadj Salim who operates one of the tunnels, and it cannot be used to mix construction-grade concrete.
Other vital materials such as the steel rods used to reinforce concrete in buildings are too long to fit through the tunnels, Salim says.
With construction at a standstill, the newly homeless residents of the Gaza Strip where the vast majority of the 1.5 million population depends on foreign aid have had to make do.
By Djallal Malti